TAKING IT TO THE FIELD
End-zone stencils, helmet decals part of NFL’s social-justice initiatives
NFL teams will add symbols to their end zones and helmets this season as part of a leaguewide effort to make clear its commitment to social justice.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that teams will stencil two phrases into the backs of their end zones — “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” — this season. Additionally, he said players will be allowed to wear helmet decals “bearing the names of the victims” of police violence and systemic racism.
Before every game, Goodell said, stadiums will play the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” accompanied by video footage of social-justice work performed by both teams participating in the games.
“The NFL stands with the Black community,” Goodell said in a conference call Tuesday afternoon. “The players, clubs and fans confronting systemic racism with tangible and productive steps is absolutely essential. We will not relent in our work, and we will redouble our efforts to be catalysts for the urgent and sustainable change that our society and communities so desperately need.
“I’m so proud of everyone across our league and others that have taken a stand using their voices and platforms to continue to shine the spotlight on things that must change.”
Those actions, and other more substantial undertakings such as the league’s voting initiative, are a far cry from the NFL’s reaction to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s socialjustice protests four years ago.
Following an offseason in which George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer and Jacob Blake was shot and paralyzed by a Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officer, NFL players have said they would consider different forms of protest once games begin next week.
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, was asked Tuesday if players would walk out of Week 1 games. NBA players refused to play playoff games last week before returning.
“They all have that choice, and that individual right, to sit out,” Vincent said.
Goodell also touted the NFL’s positive coronavirus momentum. From Aug. 21-29, the NFL administered 58,621 tests to a total of 8,739 players and team personnel. There were only 10 new positive tests — four players and six team personnel members.
He said the NFL has been “really fortunate” that the numbers are low as the season approaches.
“We are not going to get comfortable,” he said. “We will remain vigilant, resilient, flexible and basically adapt to circumstances as needed with public health as our No. 1 priority, as we have all this offseason.”
The NFL has updated its gameday protocols by requiring every coach and staff member in the bench area to wear a mask and reducing the size of each team’s travel party.
Owners also will have to follow COVID-19 testing requirements to gain access to the locker room, field or team charter.
Goodell said the league does not believe that teams opening the season with fans at their home games will have a competitive advantage. He hopes that those, like the Bears, who open the season in empty home stadiums might eventually add fans.
The league is in a good position to start and finish the season, he said.
“It will not be easy, and it will be different,” he said. “But we are prepared.”
When the Bears next head to Soldier Field, they will see the phrases “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us’’ painted in the end zones.